Most young to adult dogs rarely if ever need their nails trimmed. Walking on hard surfaces, such as the pavement, will naturally wear down the nails. However, untrimmed nails can break, bleed or even grow into the feet, causing the animal a lot of discomfort. In older dogs walking on overgrown nails can cause pain in arthritic feet. Hearing a 'click-click-click' as your pet walks on hard floors is the most obvious sign that nails need a clip. You need to be shown how to correctly clip your dog’s claws to avoid causing damage to the nail and pain to your dog, so always consult your vet/vet nurse before attempting to clip your dog’s claws at home.
How to clip your dog's nails
- If you do not think your dog will tolerate having his nails clipped, will become stressed or upset, or at worst try and nip you then do not try and clip the nails yourself but ask your vet to do it. Most veterinary practices have veterinary nurse’s clinics where this can be done cheaply.
- If the nails are very overgrown, grown into the pad or your have no one to help you, then you may be better asking your local veterinary practice to clip the nails for you than trying yourself for the first time.
- After your tutorial by your vet/vet nurse you are ready to go, but ensure you purchase the correct type of nail clippers from your veterinary practice or groomers. Only use nail trimmers that have been specifically designed for pets - and ensure they are sharp and well-maintained.
- Depending on the size of your dog have the dog on your lap or sit on the floor next to your dog. Have a friend/family member help by holding his/her head and providing reassurance.
- Hold your pet's paws firmly and push on the pads lightly to make the nail stick out. Starting at the very end of the nail, clip at a 45-degree angle with the cutting end of the nail clipper towards the nail. With dark nails, trim very thin cuttings off the end only otherwise the ‘quick’ or soft part of the nail will be damaged causing pain. If you see a black dot in the centre of the nail, you have got to the quick and should stop cutting immediately. Again be guided by your vet/vet nurse at how much nail to remove.
- Be very careful to avoid the nail quick, which on white nails is the pink section (you cannot see it in black nails). The quick contains nerves and blood vessels and when nicked will bleed easily.
- Have silver nitrate sticks (available from your vets) and cotton wool balls nearby in case you do accidentally nick the nail quick. If so, and it bleeds, don't panic. Calmly apply the silver nitrate to the end of the claw and press with a cotton wool ball for a moment. If the bleeding doesn’t stop then consult your vet immediately.
- Silver nitrate may sting, so ask your helper to hold your dog if the need arises.
- If you do cause bleeding have a chat with your vet/vet nurse about avoiding this complication in future.
- Remember to trim the dew claw nail, which is located on the inside of the leg. If left untrimmed, they curl up and grow into the soft tissue like an ingrown toenail.
- Trim the nails preferably once a week, but at least twice a month depending on your dog and how often they walk on roads. The more often you trim them the easier it becomes - it's better to take off small amounts more often than to remove large portions every once in a while.
- Teach nail trimming from an early age. Play 'pretend trimming' by touching the feet then rewarding your dog with a favourite treat.
- Remember to always reward your dog after the nail trimming to make it a positive experience.
- Use a normal nail file to file the soft toenails of puppies or older dogs with brittle nails, which is unlikely to cause pain or bleeding.
- When you check the nails, also check the paw pads for any cuts or foreign bodies (grass seeds are a big problem for some dogs in summertime and can lodge between the toes). Check between the toes for any signs of soreness. Contact your vet if you find anything unusual.
Cutting your dog’s claws is not easy so don’t feel guilty if you can’t do it! If in doubt consult your vet or vet nurse.